Council members in National City on Tuesday approved the development and drafting of a proposed ballot measure to extend the city’s voter-approved 10-year district sales tax.
The tax measure known as Proposition D, which is a one-cent sales tax, brings in millions of dollars in revenue for the city of National City’s general fund.
With the tax expiring in September 2016, council members listened to the financial implications for the city if the tax isn’t extended.
Director of Administrative Services Stacey Stevenson presented to the council a three-year operating budget of what the city would look like for fiscal year 2015-2017 if the tax were to expire.
Drastic cuts to city services, city staff and public safety would occur if the tax were to cease, she said.
According to Stevenson, library services would see a 23 percent reduction in hours of operation.
Instead of operating six days a week, the library would operate for only five days.
The library would also eliminate its reading programs.
The district sales tax represents about 22 percent of the general fund’s operating revenue, Stevenson said.
Without the district tax, 109 city employees would be without a job, including public safety workers.
City Manager Leslie Deese said although the tax doesn’t expire for another two years, it is important for the city to start preparing itself.
“Although developing a three-year operating plan, especially one with severe reductions, is a difficult and painful undertaking, it’s critical we begin to plan now,” she said.
Public safety is the area that would suffer the most if the tax is not extended.
Frank Parra, the city’s director of emergency services, said the fire department would eliminate 13 safety positions and be forced to close fire station 31.
He said the department would also see an increase in 9-1-1 response times as well as increased property losses.
Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez said his department would see a reduction from 82 officers to 45.
He said that without the district tax the police department would see the elimination of the Gang Enforcement Team and SWAT Team.
“Our SWAT Team would be eliminated, which of course has a major impact in any kind of adverse school shooting,” he said.
Stevenson said public safety services constitute 71 percent of the general fund.
A consulting team also provided council with a sample survey ballot of 400 randomly selected registered voters in National City to gauge whether voters would vote to extend the one-cent tax.
According to the survey, more than three in four respondents or 78 percent believe National City needs to “maintain the current level of services.”
City officials say the way to maintain the current level of services is by extending the tax.
After reading a sample ballot measure, 48 percent of the respondents voted that they would definitely vote for extending the sales tax while 19 percent said they probably would vote yes.
These results led council members to approve drafting a ballot measure with a proposal to extend the district tax.
Mayor Ron Morrison said the people who don’t live in National City are the ones contributing the most to the tax.
“People outside are paying for this because people outside come here and they use our services and use the different things here,” Morrison said.
“And approximately 70 percent of this tax is paid by people who don’t live in National City, so they get to provide for the services.”